By Richard Bleil
Before I begin, let me state clearly that this will be an opinion piece. I will even tell you that the conclusion will be that there the way interviews are done, and jobs are offered, is just further evidence of corporate immorality and greed.
Yes, even the process of seeking a job reeks of corruption.
This past week, I have been invited to an interview at a college that is some thousand miles from where I am living. This college belongs to a state collegiate system where I had interviewed previously (different college, same system). In an age with incredible advances in videoconferencing tools, the previous institution insisted on the traditional two-step interview process, except, they would not allow videoconferencing for the first interview. The first interview had to be done in-person. The candidates were informed that our travel expenses would be covered for the second interview if we were invited back.
I was not. No reimbursement for my travel expenses was offered.
This new invitation is again a first interview. I do not know if they intend to have a second interview or not, and there has been no offer of reimbursement for travel and expenses. At issue is that, frankly, travel will hit a personal budget far harder than that of a college (or university). To assume that the people being interviewed are willing to pick up these expenses on their own is to assume that the people applying are desperate enough for work to be willing to pay for the trip regardless of their budget situation, and take advantage of it.
Today I am considering whether or not to continue the application process if they are not planning to reimburse me. My financial situation is rather desperate, but if I drive the trip, it will provide a much-needed extended road trip and vacation of sorts to me. This may well be the tipping point of my decision, but it will still be painful.
Before this interview, I had a couple of interviews in what would have been new directions to me. The most recent one was the job of talent seeker. When I showed up, I was taken on a tour of the building, introduced to multiple key people, including the owner, and provided a lot of information on the job, as well as the benefits of working there. It wasn’t until the end of the “interview” that I was told the cost of working there.
See, to work there, I would have been a self-contracter. In fact, they went so far as to require that I start my own LLC to work “for” them. Traditionally, when you are offered a job, they provide you pay rate or salary information, a packet of benefits if applicable (and usually there were), and a start date if you accepted. You would show up, and perform your assigned duties. That was the end of it.
Today, I have had several companies “offer” me positions where my “salary” was a fraction of the money I could bring in (a “commission”) with no base salary, and I would have to pay to access the tools I would need to perform the job. In the example to which I am referring, I had to pay for access to their database, and while paying for the privilege to access it, I would be expected to add to it.
The old joke has come true. “I had to work 18 hours a day, AND pay the owner for the privilege to work there!”
The company to which I am referring was relatively generous, offering a starting “commission” of 60%, which would increase to as much as 90% as I became “high performing”. But, what this really means is that they are taking my earnings, between 10 and 40%, plus added costs for basically working for them. In return, if I paid for it, I got access to their database, but nothing else. I would presumably be part of a team, but the commission structure automatically made it an adversarial team. Because I would be an independent contractor, there would be no benefits, and I wouldn’t even be covered by the company if something went wrong.
To use an old vernacular, if I were to work there and something went wrong, my butt would be left “flapping in the wind”.
The reality is that I’m old. By now I am supposed to be established, but circumstances appear to have conspired against me. But, I don’t have college loans to pay off, I have no family, so at least as far as expenses go, I’m not too bad off. But what about the younger generation? Through the years, corporations have been taking more and more away from their employees. While at one time they saw their employees as their greatest asset, as this attitude faded, the corporations started in with shady practices such as removing previously promised retirement benefits, scaling back on health care benefits, failing to keep pace with inflation in salaries, cutting employees rather than re-investing in the company and more. Until today, when we, quite literally, have to pay for the privilege to go to work. Or even just to interview.